The Toxic Mom Diet: The Roots of my Poor Eating Habits

Looking at the Open Mouth of a Just Caught, Giant Fish by Alfred EisenstaedtOne of the most challenging tasks for my nutritionist was figuring out what I actually liked to eat. What I would eat.

The look on her face said it all.

“What kind of fish do you like?” she asked sweetly.

“I won’t really eat fish,” I answered truthfully. “But I love shrimp and crab!”

“How about baked or roasted chicken?” she countered.

“Only if there isn’t any other form of protein in the house,” I replied.

She cocked her head to one side, looking at me straight in the eyes. Something was weird. She just didn’t know what.

She didn’t know that when I was a single girl living in the city I once received a plastic head of lettuce as an apartment-warming gift from a friend who knew that I every head of lettuce I ever bought with good intentions eventually got tossed into the garbage a week later, a gooey, decaying mess.

She didn’t know that as a toddler I refused to eat anything except Rice Krispies and whole milk – – for an entire year.

She didn’t know that when I was a little girl my mother made to-die-for Swedish meatballs with spaetzl, but mostly, she was unable to prepare regular meals.

For my entire childhood my brown bag lunch was a white bread bologna sandwich — no mustard — no mayonnaise — and an apple.  When my mother began her descent into drinking and generally doing what she wanted and “napping” at odd hours, she couldn’t be bothered to prepare meals at mealtime, if at all.

That’s when quarters stolen from pockets were transformed into dill pickles and huge 29-cent bags of Lay’s barbecue potato chips up at Charlie’s corner store.  I began hiding boxes of Bugles under my bed. No one noticed because no one ever cleaned my room, including me.

There were nights when hunger would keep me awake and I would risk the wrath of my mother by waking her and asking her for something to eat. Cream of Wheat would be fine, I’d offer apologetically.  Whether my mother rose to feed me was predicated on the state of my hands. Specifically, she would demand I hold my hands out palms down. If they shook — we called it vibrations — she’d get up and shuffle down the hall to the kitchen and fill a pot with water. If not, I’d be told to go back to bed.

I told my nutritionist all of this, referring to my crazy, illogical and harmful habits as just part of The Toxic Mom Diet and bless her heart, she kept a neutral face throughout. She must know better than most after so many client meetings that food is never just about food.  She was sorry that happened to me.  But I got the impression my story was not unique to her. She was all business, which made it a lot easier for me.

“Let’s start a list of foods you like, that are nutritious and go from there. Let’s not worry about portions, just foods you will eat,” she said.

That first list grew to include sliced turkey, turkey bacon, eggs, edemame, Baby Bell light cheese rounds, flax crackers, Trader Joe’s quinoa and chicken shu mai, and California roll sushi. With this food roster and an occasional meal out, I averaged a one- to two-pound loss per week. And I didn’t have to beg anyone to get up and make it for me.

I was finally, actively, feeding myself and it felt good. I felt good.

Coming next Sunday: Nutritious meals for the Non-Cook

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Rayne's dream was to write her memoir and found a global support community for adult children of toxic mothers. This summer she completed her book, which inclues her story of growing up with not one, but two super toxic mothers as well as a mosiac of mini-memoirs of women from all over the world who have created happy and peaceful lives despite toxic parenting. Her book, Toxic Mom Toolkit, is published on Amazon.com and Create Space. Her Facebook page Toxic Mom Toolkit, attracts over 250,000 per month and is a safe place to read or tell healing stories, exchange positive strategies on how to live with toxic parenting and lots of humor and resources. A freelance journalist, she currently writes a food & drink page for several Bay Area newspapers and is a private writing coach.

Latest posts by Rayne Wolfe, Published Author and Journalist (see all)

  • Food can indeed be a weird topic. It makes a difference promoting healthy eating habits to your child. I was lucky enough to get (plain) homecooked meals every day as a child. I am a gourmet cook, and my kids don’t even want to go out to a restaurant! :-D I remember when they were still in kindergarten, and we’d go to a fish restaurant, the waiter tried to offer fish sticks to my kids. No way! Fresh fish only! And they love veggies. We also have a sweet tooth… Baking is included in my gourmet cooking skills. Hey, food is there to be enjoyed! When I diet, I mostly switch to a Mediterranean diet: lots of vegetables and fish. Or homemade soup. (Doing all that right now…)
    But it’s sad to read stories about children going hungry because their mother doesn’t care. I’m glad to read you have more healthy eating habits now! I am already teaching my teenagers how to cook simple meals.

    • Rayne

      You have to acknowledge it to overcome it, so I’m happy to tell on myself. My hope is that my stories help other people —- inspire others!

  • Heather Montgomery, Product Launch Dreams

    I love uncovering my weird food relationships. I have never been one for anything green (my sweet tooth ruled) but have flip-flopped over “diets” most of my life. Including staying vegan for over a year!

    Thanks for sharing your food craziness!

    – Heather

  • My mother wasn’t toxic but she made the worst lunches EVER. I was relieved to get to junior high and be able to buy a school lunch, but most of the time I skipped lunch and pocketed the money.

    Dinner was always centered around waiting for my dad to get home from work, or dinner was something awful like liver left waiting in the oven for me after I got home from ballet class (usually after 9pm). But Saturday nights my dad barbequed and Sundays my mother always made these amazing meals like some small Thanksgiving dinner. So I spent my weekdays avoiding most foods and then enjoying food on the weekend.

    Kind of like the habit I have today… hmmm … interesting insight Rayne.

    Cath